Moving From Thought To Paper

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Obstacle I: Deciding what should be included in the short form template

1-2 pages is an extremely limited amount of space. With such space restrictions, only the most important information can be conveyed, and it must be done so succinctly. Given the amount of research available, figuring out what information to include is a challenge.

Possible Solutions:

  • Define your target audience. If the audience has a policy background, there is no need to waste space by defining basic terms or concepts.
  • Add footnotes to sources containing more information about a given topic. Make sure to mention the outcome of the research or data, but there is no need to reproduce the entirety of someone else’s work.
  • Depending on individual working style, it is often helpful to write a long section about a particular topic, and then parse it down. If it is difficult to edit it your own work, ask someone else to read it cut out what they view as unimportant.
  • Understanding clearly what each section of the template requires helps to avoid the problem of overlap. Overlap is a natural consequence of research, but given the lack of space, information need only be stated once.
  • Pick a stopping place. There is always more that can be said or done. Often, making a point without a barrage of information is more convincing and overwhelming than putting including too much information (it saves space too!).

Obstacle II: Realizing the lack of specific information

Inevitably, a group will come to realize that they have missed certain crucial pieces of information. Especially in the face of a deadline, figuring out how to address this concern is hugely important.

Possible Solutions II:

  • Keep calm. This may sound obvious, but panicking is a sure way to avoid fixing the problem.
  • Remember that the short form template is comprised of several sections. Do not solely focus around the missing information, and stop the progress of the rest of the project. Assign one group member the find the missing information, while the others keep working on the sections that have completed research.
  • As long as you are honest with yourself, and identify the exact points that are missing, it is okay to not have all the answers.

Tips:

  1. Aesthetics and ease of readability of the final document are important. However, a beautiful deliverable cannot mask incoherencies. Allow enough time to polish the document but do not let focus drift away from the goal of delivering a product that is substantive and well grounded.
  2. Take regular breaks and re-focus to avoid being overwhelmed or discouraged.